Sorry to my 3 loyal readers for my lack of updates. Been busy with everything. So here's a quick update on a few things. The GT Academy ended for me with 5 days to go in the contest when my wheel broke! I was going to California the next morning anyway so I decided that was it and I would just focus on the karting in Cali. At one point in the first few days, I was up to something like 70th or so in the US, but failed to improve my time and slowly slipped in the standings. I also had the TAG kart out for the first time a month ago, it's a blast! More on that to come.

So on to the Grand Nats. We had big group of 8 guys going repping the DMV! I flew in Tuesday with my friend John, and we met up with a few guys already there and hung out for the day. We ended getting some In-N-Out burger, chatting with the guys at Rhys Millen Racing, crashing the Sparco USA corporate office (haha!), turning some laps at one of the many K1 Speed locations in socal (awesome facility, not a big fan of the karts though) and getting some late night Korean barbecue. Not bad for my first day in cali, ever!

Wednesday and Thursday were open practice. It was a good deal, 100/day with a whole 2 hours of track time each day. Was kinda surprised at the low turnout for practice but I guess a lot of guys already had some experience at the track. The track was awesome, by far the best parking lot track I've ever seen, with an interesting surface (high grip, but subtle surface changes everywhere), real curbs, elevation changes, and a nice mix of high and low speed corners. The karts were well maintained older Sodikart models, which meant they were lighter then the RX-7 mammoths and they had what seemed like the stickiest tires of any rental karts I've ever driven.

From practice, I learned that even though the track was high speed, there were technicalities to master to get that last second, and I was struggling to move to the top of the time charts. That was frustrating, but I also learned the draft would be huge, and strategy and racecraft, things I knew I could do well in if I played the cards right, would count for ALOT come race day.

So the first day of racing came and in qualifying for some reason I chose to go out and run by myself instead of waiting up for my teammate right behind me and drafting. I ended up qualifying 18th which I was not happy with! But in the race I got a feel for the racing which came very naturally and I was feeling pretty good. I moved up a few positions and went back and forth with a bunch of guys in the pack, ending up 14th. The racing was also overly aggressive at some times, but that actually improved in the later heats when people settled down a bit.

For the second heat, I nailed the qualifying strategy and was on a great lap coming to the last turn to take the checkered, when the guy I was drafting make a sudden (inadvertent) move to the outside where my nose was approaching the corner, when I thought he was going to stay to the inside to pass the guy we were closing up on. It was just the wrong timing and in a split second I ended up spinning mowing over a whole row of tires and cones. My best lap which was basically a throw away for the last one was still good for 14th, while the guy I was drafting (who finished the last lap) ended up 3rd! I surely would have been right there! Goes to show how much good strategy in qualifying can do. For the race though, I was confident in my kart and moved up to 8th by the finish, right on the heels of 6th and 7th place. In the process I managed to set fastest lap of the race!

For the third and final heat of the day, I qualed 19th (don't remember what happened there) and raced up to 13th. It was another aggressive race which was a little frustrating because I felt we could have gotten a chance to move up higher if some of the guys at the back of the pack weren't fighting so hard for 15h place!

The second day would be on a slightly more technical course, which since I was slow, would be tougher for me! But for the first race I drew a supposed fast kart, and qualified it 6th, catching a nice draft form a teammate who ended up 8th. The first few laps we worked together well, and we were staying with the lead pack. Then something happened and he dropped way back. Meanwhile I settled into a solid 8th just a little behind the lead pack as things strung out a bit, and was looking to likely finish there when suddenly the kart started falling on it's face out of the corners. This was more then some bogging, after a few laps I had no throttle for half the straightaway! In the last 7 laps of the race I went from 8th to 21st. I have no idea what happened to the kart as afterwards it was fine but I assure you it was not me! Fortunately the officials counted it as a mechanical, and I was given (by the rulebook) points for the position I was running in minus 2 positions, which I thought was very fair.

For the 5th heat, I again nailed qualifying and ended up 3rd in a kart that wasn't even that great, or at least I wasn't that fast on my own in. Unfortunately in the race I had some contact on the first lap (the other driver ended up apologizing after the race) which put my over a curb and sent me from around 5th to 11th according to the lap chart. From there, I struggled with pace and ended up slipping back and finishing 17th. This was the first race I wasn't happy with my performance in the race, as analyzing things I feel I should have been able to hold on around 13-15th even after the first lap contact, if I hadn't been frustrated, overdrove and made mistakes.

The final heat was non notable as I was stuck going out dead last in qualifying and had no one to draft with. I ended up qualifying 21st! I couldn't find any speed in the kart during the race and ended up finishing 18th.

For the last day, there was a new course that no one had seen, which in theory would level the playing field but I ended up struggling to find pace in warm up again (I was hoping part of the new course would be soaking the track with water!). However, I knew strategy would be important for the 40 lap semi-final that required 2 pit stops so hope was not lost. This was also the last race for everyone 46th or lower in the points, and I really wanted to at least make the LCQ for those in points positions 21-45.

With two poor results in heats 5 and 6, I felt like I needed a strong result to ensure I'd make the LCQ. After studying the first race, I decided my strategy would be to pit on the first lap. However, the strategy backfired when apparently several other guys were thinking the same thing and I ended up 4th in line in the pits on the first lap. The rules required drivers to stop in three stop boxes along the length of the pits, and being 4th in a tight line, I basically ended up having to stop 12 times while the lead kart only had to stop 3 (not quite that bad but you get the point...) In my frustration I ended up accidentally hitting the guy in front of me entering the last stop box and got a black flag an losing another 26 seconds or so having to repeat the stop! I was so far back now I had no draft which being slow I desperately needed. After some laps I attempted to pit early for my second stop to see if it would place me with someone else, but ended up coming out by myself again! So I ran a majority of the race with no draft which hurt me even more. It was a boring cruise to the end of the race where I finished 19th, my worst finish (not including my mechanical) yet. This was really disappointing; in the race were strategy mattered most, something I thought I could capitalize on, I had my worst finish!

I was pretty certain I would drop out of the top 45. However, I managed to squeak in to the tail of the LCQ, holding on to 44th in points. I'll leave the LCQ commentary to the video. It's the LCQ, you gotta go for it so honestly wasn't angry at the result.

Overall, it was a great week of racing. I have to give a big thanks to Calspeed Karting/Karting ventures, the hosts/organizers/promoters of the event. I could go on and on about about all the great things that they did all week, but this post has already gotten too long, so I'll just say they did a phenomenal job putting on a world class event. I'll try to post more about what they did so well in running a sport karting and racing event in general and why it's important later. I also have to thank Volta Grand Prix, the partner series through which I earned my entry to the event, and Indo Pratama Racing, my team which provided great support, both at the track and away from it in all the fun we had throughout the week.